Jyoti Paintel, Spiritual Contributor
2020 is starting to be one Hell of year already, and I mean that in an almost a literal sense.
It has been difficult to watch footage of the complete annihilation of the Australian landscape—due to the bush fires—and not have a heavy heart. But the inherent goodness and compassion of people still have the power to give others hope. It has been inspiring to see emergency rescue teams and even ordinary civilians risking their lives to save animals. It rouses the heart to see that emergency units are working around the clock in shifts to care for all the injured: humans and animals alike.
The Irwins, the surviving family of the much-loved Australian animal personality Steve Irwin, have taken in close to a half-million animals to shelter and rehabilitate. Actors, musicians, NBA players, billionaire social media megastars (Hi Kylie Jenner!), and even crypto-currency companies alike have donated millions of dollars to relief funds, and the donations appear to keep coming in from all over the world.
Last year was also filled with extreme personal hardships for many people I know, and some of my friends admitted that the challenges were so great that they felt they had hit rock bottom. I, too, could certainly relate. After much inner conflict, heartache and confusion, I decided last year that it was time to end my marriage. But the decision to do so came at a heavy price, and the aftermath left me feeling raw, empty, and anxious about my now uncertain future. While I was in an unhappy marriage, I was too afraid to take the step and face the difficult journey ahead, but then circumstances plunged me into divorce and a scary new world where I had many dragons (fear-based insecurities) ahead of me to slay.
The Hero’s Journey
Joseph’s Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces is the mythological structure used to relate stories of finding our inner hero during the perilous journey of life. It has 12 stages, but the main point of the text is that the Hero must eventually leave some comfort zone of the ordinary world and enter into the unknown- a world filled with unforeseen challenges.
At first, the Hero refuses to act when called upon to slay the monsters (symbolizing our fears) that threaten happiness and peace. The Hero must pass through thresholds and face the conflicts head-on because they represent a test. Though the Hero must make difficult decisions, and even deal with failure, the Hero emerges victorious, having learned the greatest lesson in life: that we must all pass through darkness to find our light.
The chapters in our life stories that contain the painfully written passages of our biggest defeats and tragedies can feel like the longest and most unbearable parts of the journey. But somehow it all has a divine purpose; after all, if I am trying to define what the divine is in practical terms, then what better place to start than the resilience of the human spirit? A crucial part of the myth is that the Hero receives support from a mentor to help with the ordeal. In non-mythological terms, the mentor can also be symbolized as the strength of our spirit, which guides us through the dangerous and troubled waters to safe land. When we lose our faith in our ability to overcome the challenges ahead, the power springing from the spirit becomes our elixir.
During times of personal crisis, people often seek out some form of spiritual guidance to help them, and in doing so we make an important discovery: the path that appears to be leading us out of our misery, is actually showing us the way back into our heart and our souls. There we find the elixir. The proof that we are valid, worthy, and ultimately our “truth” is worth defending. Getting to this place inside and confronting our fears (the mythological monsters) is when our road to victory has begun because just arriving there takes a tremendous amount of courage- courage worthy of a Hero!
The Emotional Guidance System: Our Fiercest Protector and Loyal Mentor
Our feelings don’t lie to us; they let us know the second when something is not resonating in our hearts, we just suppress them because we do not know how to deal with the truth they are echoing inside.
If we want to find our spiritual center, then we must tune our frequency to our spirit, the place where we know truth resides. Often the most catastrophic life events involve confronting an ugly truth we have been trying to hide. Abraham Hicks, a self-help guru, always emphasizes the importance of recognizing our emotional guidance system, much in the way very young children also utilize it. Small children know what they are feeling without having to explain or analyze their feelings, and the emotions are very general: happy, sad, angry, scared.
They know that their hearts are speaking out loud. Our feelings are the iterations of our soul.
As we grow into adults, we try to reason with our hearts, but try as we may, we cannot escape the gentle, soft truth that our heart will always try to guide us to.
Native Americans also recognize the importance of our raw emotions. I sat in many four-hour-long traditional Sioux sweat lodge ceremonies alongside small, fearless children, and I was advised to observe their feelings and emotions as a guide back to my own inner child.
What our minds tell us to do is simply a distraction because the heart takes time to heal, and nothing except love (especially self-love) can treat the heart.
The heart is deeply connected to the soul, and to my knowledge, the depth of both are what can be called Infinite.
This month’s column is about our connection with the heart and the importance of living in this true place of worship, joining the place where God chooses to reside, too.
If we find a way inside when the fires of our lives threaten to engulf us, if we find a way to hold steadfast to the goodness, and to the belief that the best chapters are yet waiting to be written, then we are practicing our true faith in a place that needs neither location to worship nor moral doctrines or rules to govern our souls.
I once read that at some point near the end of our lives, once we passed through the numerous common thresholds of the human experience, we will see that the chapters written while overcoming our darkest moments will somehow become our most achingly beautiful and our proudest.